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Montreal headquarters of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. SRyan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

SNC-Lavalin says it was justified in firing a former executive last year because it says he acted illegally to help smuggle the son of Libya's dictator to Mexico.

The engineering giant is defending itself against a nearly $1-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by former controller Stephane Roy.

In a 16-page statement of defence filed in Quebec Superior Court, SNC-Lavalin says Roy and former executive Riadh Ben Aissa plotted to help Moammar Gadhafi's son and family to flee Libya without its knowledge. It is seeking more than $1.8-million from Roy to cover expenses that it says it later learned were paid by the company.

Roy sued for wrongful dismissal, saying he was made a "scapegoat" and described as a "rogue employee" even though he claims to have always acted on the company's orders.

Roy has never been charged, but has been named in an RCMP affidavit with trying to smuggle Saadi Gadhafi and his family into Mexico.

SNC-Lavalin says Roy and Ben Aissa broke Canadian and international laws by secretly working to help Gadhafi. The company said Roy made more than $18,000 in payments from his personal bank account to cover fees Gadhafi owed on his Toronto condominium. The funds were later reimbursed by Ben Aissa but not SNC-Lavalin, the company said.

SNC-Lavalin said a United Nations prohibition on helping Gadhafi made the payments illegal.

The engineering firm acknowledged that its reputation has been tarnished by the Gadhafi plot and $56-million in payments to undisclosed agents that led to the departure of then-CEO Pierre Duhaime last year. Duhaime has been charged with fraud over $22.5-million in payments relating to a hospital project in Montreal. He has pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and issuing false documents.

Ben Aissa was arrested in April 2012 in Switzerland on suspicion of corruption, fraud and money-laundering in North Africa. Ben Aissa's brother, Rafik, has filed a lawsuit alleging the company caused him harm for using his brother as a "scapegoat" while protecting its interests in Libya in the face of political change.